Robert writes "Steve Ballmer told investors recently that Microsoft's biggest challenge is embracing software-as-a-service business models, as embodied by rival Google Inc. Investing in software as a service and advertising-supported businesses is a challenge like that which the company faced at the dawn of the open-source movement. To paraphrase him heavily, the takeaway was: Yes, we're investing a lot, but it's riskier, long-term, not to do so. We have a lot of cool stuff coming up and, yes, we are also playing catch-up on a couple of fronts. His speech came a month after Microsoft revealed that its R&D budget for fiscal 2007, which ends mid-2007, would rise to $6.2bn." From the article: "We've got to make this transition, which our industry is making, from software as a product to software as a service ... If you want to be a leading software company, you've got to be a leading software-as-a-service company."